Following news of yet another potential surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the subvariant of Omicron, many people are facing an uncomfortable feeling: anger.
Meghan Cotter and Rebecca Serino, Parking and Commuter Services
On Monday March 16, the MBTA announced reduced service across service lines to begin the next morning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement came the day after Massachusetts General Hospital's Commuter Services department within Police, Security and Outside Services, submitted their monthly order for 11,000 MBTA passes.
“We knew we were in trouble the minute that announcement came out,” says Meghan Cotter, Parking Audit supervisor, Police, Security and Outside Services.
Within hours of the announced changes, Commuter Services was receiving hundreds of phone calls and emails from employees concerned about their parking and MBTA passes. With the overwhelming need for email responses to MBTA pass organization, parking distribution and commute-related requests, the Parking Services team and the Parking Audit team found themselves working together more than ever.
“Looking at it on the surface, at first it felt like we weren’t a critical part of the hospital’s response. When you think of all the clinical staff taking care of the patients, or the security officers, garage staff, Nutrition and Food Services employees, Buildings and Grounds or Environmental Services staff, who are all out in the hospital interacting with people, it didn’t feel like our work was all that special in the grand scheme of things,” says Cotter. “But then I realized that we were here to support all of those employees.”
As patient and visitor numbers declined, there was an opportunity for employees to park in the front garages. Rebecca Serino, lead Parking Services coordinator, Police, Security and Outside Services, says “Many employees were unsure of how they were getting to work. Assigning parking access became a huge part of our day. We activated thousands of employee badges to accommodate parking at the garages. We would assign parking to over a hundred employees per day,” she says. Before COVID-19, the parking office on Wang 2 might have seen 10 to 15 customers. During the COVID-19 response, the numbers tripled.
Both Cotter and Serino agree that it is teamwork that made the work possible. Before the pandemic response, the Commuter Services team would be responsible for helping customers with parking requests and badge access to garages and parking lots. “Meg and her team literally saved us. While we worked on stuffing and sending out the passes to the employees who needed them, the Audit team was programming badges for parking for employees who normally didn’t have access,” says Serino.
When the 11,000 MBTA passes arrived—since the original order had been placed before the service disruptions, it could not be revoked—Cotter began by printing out the thousands of emails from employees who cancelled their passes. The Commuter Services team went through each pile of passes to remove the cancelled ones and logged the cancellations to send to payroll.
“The amount of emails answered and refunds that were processed is truly amazing,” says Serino. “It was a challenge having over 50-60 employees lined up outside the office, but our teams pulled through. It’s great to see both the Parking office and the Audit team working so close to help one another.”
Cotter says, “If we didn’t work together and all do our parts, there is no way we could have gotten through all of this.”
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